BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Recommends Shark Discontinue Preference Claims for ‘Rotator Powered Lift-Away’ Vacuum Challenged by Dyson

New York, NY – July 13, 2017 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Sharkninja Operating LLC discontinue the following claims for the company’s Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away vacuum cleaner:
• “2 out of 3 preferred the Shark”
• “America preferred … Shark”

The claims were challenged before NAD by Dyson, Inc., the maker of the competing Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal vacuum.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

The claims at issue appeared in television and online advertisements where Shark claimed that in a recent independent in-home study, “America preferred … Shark,” and “two out of three” people preferred the Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away vacuum over the Dyson Cinetic vacuum. Dyson disputed the reliability of Shark’s data and whether there was an appropriate fit between the “America preferred the Shark” claim and the substantiation provided.

Shark said that it had engaged third party experts to conduct a broad, national in home use test and contended that its preference claims were supported by the results of a double-blind, multi-week, head-to-head, paired-preference study of 355 subjects at eight centers across the United States. According to the advertiser, each subject was provided with two new vacuums in sequence, together with the respective vacuum’s accessories and instruction manuals. Half of the subjects started with the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal; half with the Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away NV752. The respondents had two weeks to use each vacuum. The advertiser explained that the respondents were instructed to incorporate the test vacuums into their household routines, agreeing to use them “in all of the ways (and for all of the tasks) that you would use a vacuum that you owned” and to perform these tasks “throughout the two week period” to “gain experience with each vacuum for all of the vacuuming tasks that are relevant to [their] homes,” including those that they normally “performed less frequently.”

NAD noted in its decision certain concerns with the advertiser’s preference study methodology – including its short duration, the lack of clear directions on how often and under what conditions participants were to use the vacuums, and the lack of follow up questions to ascertain actual usage by study participants. Following its review of the study results and methodology, NAD found that the study did not ensure that the respondents used each vacuum for a sufficient time and in a variety of typical cleaning situations “to form the meaningful preference reasonably communicated by the challenged commercial.”

NAD determined that the advertiser’s consumer home use survey results were not a good fit for the challenged commercial, which conveyed the message that the “2 out of 3” preference claim for the Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away over the Dyson Cinetic Big Ball Animal was based on opinions derived from consumers who had an ample opportunity to use each vacuum often enough, and in a representative number of usage situations, to develop a meaningful “home use” based preference. Consequently, NAD determined that the evidence was inadequate to support the preference claims made in the challenged advertising and recommended that the “2 out of 3 preferred the Shark” and “America preferred Shark” claims be discontinued.

Shark, said in its advertiser’s statement, that the company will comply with NAD’s recommendations and “will not be appealing the decision given that all advertising incorporating the preference claims at issue has long since run its course.”

However, the advertiser noted, the company ”respectfully disagrees with NAD’s conclusion … that the study length – a total of four weeks – was insufficient to ensure consumers used each vacuum sufficiently to come to an informed opinion.”

Note: A recommendation by NAD to modify or discontinue a claim is not a finding of wrongdoing and an advertiser’s voluntary discontinuance or modification of claims should not be construed as an admission of impropriety. It is the policy of NAD not to endorse any company, product, or service. Decisions finding that advertising claims have been substantiated should not be construed as endorsements.